Bath-time Rebellion & the Subtle Oppression of Self-Care Consumerism

Self-care is honestly fundamental to one’s personal sense of well-being. It’s very real and important. Unfortunately and unsurprising, consumerism has made self-care oppressive, almost anxiety-inducing. Do you self-care right? Do you self-care enough? Do you have the right bath soak, the right face mask? The right jade roller? The right magic infused healing stickers?

So–I don’t love myself enough because I’m sitting in a crystal infused epsom salt lavender bath? Is that the world we live in? Actually, I think I’m good. But thanks for making me feel insecure about one more thing that will take up more of my mental consideration than it deserves. 

Despite loving baths as a child, they lost interest and purpose into adulthood (like a lot of joyful childhood pleasures). As an adult baths lost their purpose–and as an adult, you should only do things that have purpose or financial viability, right? And with a bath–what do you do? What’s the point? I just sit there. In dirty water. Of ever-decreasing warmth. Then I shower, because I have to clean off my bath. I could just do the last step, showering, and BAM! Nailed it! I have a clean body.

They just seemed dumb, sort of silly, and wasteful.

Now, I’m 38. And I love baths. I love my lavender salt soak. I set up my little candles with a nice meditation, relaxing music, or maybe nature sounds, like ocean waves playing on my laptop elegantly perched on the toilet seat. If I close my eyes, focus, and concentrate on the beautiful ebb and flow of ocean waves, it feels just like I’m at the beach. In a bathtub. In dirty water.  Of ever-decreasing warmth. Because facts are facts regardless of perspective.

But, why the change? Did the persistent onslaught of self-care consumerism finally wear down my practical adult mindset? Well, no. Not really.

I simply realized, the biggest difference between you at a spa and you at home is honestly, mindset. At a spa, you are already anticipating a luxurious experience. You’ve mentally prepared for an extended time devoted to relaxation and nurturing yourself. You allow yourself to release distracting thoughts because this isn’t the time for them–you are paying money, made a plan, carved out this time for you to simply focus on you. Being in your own body, feeling safe, and content. Time where you are your first priority, time for calm. At home, self-care feels more like a personal hygiene requirement as opposed to a luxury.

The trick is approaching self care as any intentional act of self nurturing. You have to be actively engaged and present, in fact–you are the only consistent requirement for your self-care. Everything else is fluff. Fun fluff. Pretty fluff. Or pretentious overly priced fluff. But it’s all superfluous. You can buy all the bath bombs, but if you refuse to let your muscles relax, if you can’t allow your mind to calm, or if you refuse to occasionally come back to the centering act of focusing in your breath then you don’t have self-care. You just have a shit-ton of bath bombs. You can pay thousands to spend the day at a high-end spa, but if your mind is focusing on all the things you should be doing or making anxious mental to-do lists. You just spent a lot of money to be super stressed at very fancy place that smells nice. You checked the box of ‘self-care’ without taking any intentional time to–literally ‘care for yourself’. This isn’t a value judgment, our culture conditions us this way. Work and sacrifice of self is how we’ve been conditioned to demonstrate our value and worthiness in a capitalist society. 

Self love became an act of defiance. 2021

But that is my whole point. My baths are simple rebellious acts, reminding myself that I have value, even when I am doing nothing. My very existence is a gift that I don’t have to justify to anyone. I’m worthy. I’m already enough. I’m allowed to slow down, recenter, and rest because it’s good for me. It’s good for you, too. And everyone is entitled to their little moments of calm to help dissipate the stress we get from–well, pretty much everything.

Any intentional space you make for yourself to be still, breath, and allow release of the constant bombardment of anxiety, expectations and chaos for, even 10 mins–matters. Even that little seemingly insignificant amount of time that most of us can easily spend unnoticed doom scrolling. 

Those moments of intentionality toward caring about yourself helps both enrich your life in the moment and in the long term. All these little acts of self-love and self-compassion help you release emotions and tensions you don’t even realize you’ve picked up. By allowing your body to fully relax, you are building these new habits, and tricking your brian into making these modes of calm more of a mental default. Self-care helps you move forward as a constantly progressing version of yourself open to growth and love. 

You deserved your own love the whole time. 2022

You can get bath bombs, nice creams and lotions, epsom salt soak, and essential oils if you want. If you enjoy ritual and have the expendable income to purchase luxurious little additions that bring you joy—do it. Live your best life. Get that jade roller! Get the Korean face masks! Or that super cozy bathrobe. Then USE them. Just know you never need them.

But you don’t need anything–other than yourself, a dedicated amount of time, and a space you feel safe. Allow yourself to truly envelop yourself with the experience, take the time to focus on your breath, feel your body, where is it holding tension? Stretch or dance, go for a walk, snuggle in a cozy chair with a sweet pet and allow yourself to simply be. Breathe, relax your body, bring your mind to gratitude and compassion, and simply exist without any expectation from your own mind, or anyone else.

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